Sri Aurobindo and Mother - The Mother

The Mother

 The Mother

The Mother in her Childhood

The Mother

The Mother

The Mother

The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) was born in Paris on the 21st February, 1878. Her mother was Egyptian and her father was Turkish—both of them were perfect materialists. As a result, although she had inner experiences, including that of the divine Presence, right from her childhood, she was in her external life an atheist until she entered into adulthood. In her early years, she had a good grounding in music (piano), painting and higher mathematics. At the same time, she used to have spontaneous experiences including those of coming out of her body to discover inner realities without understanding what they really meant.

Let us note a few of these experiences in her own words.

 Every night at the same hour, when the whole house was very quiet, I would go out of my body and have all kinds of experiences. And then my body gradually became a sleepwalker (that is, the consciousness of the form became more and more conscious, while the link remained very solidly established). I got into the habit of getting up—but not like an ordinary sleepwalker: I would get up, open my desk, take out a piece of paper and write... poems. Yes, poems—I, who had nothing of the poet in me! I would jot things down, then very consciously put everything back into the drawer, lock everything up again very carefully and go back to bed. One night, for some reason or other, I forgot and left it open. My mother came in (in France the windows are covered with heavy curtains and in the morning my mother would come in and violently throw open the curtains, waking me up, brrm!, without any warning; but I was used to it and would already be prepared to wake up—otherwise it would have been most unpleasant!). Anyway, my mother came in, calling me with unquestionable authority, and then she found die open desk and the piece of paper: 'What's that?!”  She grabbed it.  “What have you been up to?”  I don't know what I replied but she went to the doctor:  “My daughter has become a sleep­walker! You have to give her a drug.”1

1.Mother's Agenda,  Vol. 2,  pp.307-8.

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The Mother

 When I was a child of about thirteen, for nearly a year every night as soon as I had gone to bed it seemed to me that I went out of my body and rose straight up above the house, then above the city, very high above. Then I used to see myself clad in a magnificent golden robe, much longer than myself; and as I rose higher, the robe would stretch, spreading out in a circle around me to form a kind of immense roof over the city. Then I would see men, women, children, old men, the sick, the unfortunate coming out from every side; they would gather under the outspread robe, begging for help, telling of their miseries, their suffering, their hardships. In reply, the robe, supple and alive, would extend towards each one of them individually, and as soon as they had touched it, they were comforted or healed, and went back into their bodies happier and stronger than they had come out of them. Nothing seemed more beautiful to me, nothing could make me happier; and all the activities of the day seemed dull and colourless and without any real life, beside this activity of the night which was the true life for me....¹

 The Jewish temples in Paris have such beautiful music; oh, what beautiful music! I had one of my first experiences in a temple. It was at a marriage, and the music was wonderful—Saint-Saëns, I later learnt; organ music, the second best organ in Paris—wonderful! I was fourteen years old, sitting high up in the galleries with my mother, and this music was being played. There were some leaded-glass windows—white, with no designs. I was gazing at one of these windows, feeling uplifted by the music, when suddenly through the window came a flash like a bolt of lightning. Just like lightning. It entered—my eyes were open—it entered like this (Mother strikes her breast violently), and then I... I had the feeling of becoming vast and all-powerful.... And it lasted for days.

Of course, my mother was such an out-and-out materialist, thank God, that it was impossible to speak to her of invisible things — she took them as evidence of a deranged brain! Nothing counted for her but what could be touched and seen. But this was a divine grace — I had no opportunity to say anything. I kept my experience to myself. But it was one of my first contacts with... I learned later that it was an entity from the past who had come back into me through the aspi­ration arising from the music.2

1. 22.2.1914 in  Prayers and Meditations.

2. Mother's AgendaVol. 2,  pp.195-6.

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The Mother

At the age of eighteen, I remember having such an intense need in me to KNOW.... Because I was having experiences—I had all kinds of experiences—but my surroundings offered me no chance to receive an intellectual knowledge which would have given me the meaning of it all: I couldn't even speak of them. I was having experience after experience....

For years, I had experiences during the night (but I was very careful never to speak about them!)—memories from past lives, all sorts of things, but without any base of intellectual knowledge. (Of course, the advantage of this was that my experiences were not mentally contrived; they were entirely spontaneous.) But I had such a NEED in me to know!... I remember living in a house (one of these houses with a lot of apartments), and in the apartment next door were some young Catholics whose faith was very... they were very convinced. And seeing all that, I remember saying to myself one day while brushing my hair, 'These people are lucky to be born into a religion and believe unquestioningly! It's so easy! You have nothing to do but believe—how simple that makes it.' I was feeling like this, and then when I realised what I was thinking (laughing), well, I gave myself a good scolding: 'Lazybones!'¹

To know, know, KNOW!... You see, I knew nothing, really, nothing but the things of ordinary life: external knowledge. I had learned everything I had been given to learn. I not only learned what I was taught but also what my brother was taught—higher mathematics and all that! I learned and I learned and I learned— and it was NOTHING.

None of it explained anything to me—nothing. I couldn't understand a thing!

To know!...

It was to happen to me two years later when I met someone who told me of Theon's teaching.

When I was told that the Divine was within—the teaching of the Gita, but in words understandable to a Westerner—that there was an inner Presence, that one carried the Divine within oneself, oh!... What a revelation! In a few minutes, I suddenly understood all, all, all. Understood everything. It brought the contact instantly.²

... between the ages of 18 and 20, I had attained a constant and


¹Ibid., pp. 196-7.
². Ibid.

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The Mother

conscious union with the Divine Presence and... I had done this ALL ALONE, without ANYONE'S help, not even books. When a little later I chanced upon Vivekananda's Raja Yoga, it really seemed so wonderful to me that someone could explain something to me! And it helped me realise in only a few months what would have otherwise taken years.

I met a man (I was perhaps 20 or 21 at the time), an Indian who had come to Europe and who told me of the Gita. There was a French translation of it (a rather poor one, I must say) which he advised me to read, and then he gave me the key (HIS key, it was his key). He said, 'Read the Gita...' (this translation of the Gita which really wasn't worth much but it was the only one available at the time—in those days I wouldn't have understood anything in other languages; and besides, the English translations were just as bad and... well, Sri Aurobindo hadn't done his yet!). He said, 'Read the Gita knowing that Krishna is the symbol of the immanent God, the God within.' That was all. 'Read it with THAT knowledge—with the knowledge that Krishna represents the immanent God, the God within you.' Well, within a month, the whole thing was done!¹

Her need to know led her into two directions. The first was the world of painting. She had already joined the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She mingled with the artists and widened her horizons. It was the era of the Impressionists; it was the era of Manet, a brilliant era during which beautiful things were being created. Even great literary masters like Hugo, Beaudelaire and Zola had become champions of Impressionism.

But, in spite of her intimate contact with the leading artists, she was left dissatisfied. She found the artists' horizon to be limited. She discovered that even the best among them were unable or unwilling to expand their horizons.

At the same time, her inner experiences had continued unabated; but she was in need of explanations of these experiences in the light of intellectual or wider knowledge. This was the second domain towards which she turned.

At this stage, a young man, Themanlys, who was a friend of her brother (Matteo Alfassa), spoke to her of Theon and his teaching. She started to work with him (Themanlys), and just at that time she began


¹Mother's Agenda, Vol. 1, pp. 42-3

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The Mother

to have a series of visions.

... when I first began to work (not with Theon personally but with an acquaintance of his in France, a boy who was a friend of my brother), well, I had a series of visions (I knew nothing about India, mind you, nothing, just as most Europeans know nothing about it: 'a country full of people with certain customs and religions, a confused and hazy history, where a lot of "extraordinary things" are said to have happened.' I knew nothing.) Well, in several of these visions I saw Sri Aurobindo just as he looked physically, but glorified; that is, the same man I would see on my first visit, almost thin, with that golden-bronze hue and rather sharp profile, an unruly beard and long hair, dressed in a dhoti with one end of it thrown over his shoulder, arms and chest bare, and bare feet. At the time I thought it was 'vision attire'! I mean I really knew nothing about India; I had never seen Indians dressed in the Indian way.

Well, I saw him. I experienced what were at once symbolic visions and spiritual FACTS: absolutely decisive spiritual experiences and facts of meeting and having a united perception of the Work to be accomplished. And in these visions I did something I had never done physically: I prostrated before him in the Hindu manner. All this without any comprehension in the little brain (I mean I really didn't know what I was doing or how I was doing it—nothing at all). I did it, and at the same time the outer being was asking, 'What is all this?!'

I wrote the vision down (or perhaps that was later on) but I never spoke of it to anyone (one doesn't talk about such things, naturally). But my impression was that it was premonitory, that one day something like it would happen. And it remained in the background of the consciousness, not active, but constantly present.¹

This was around 1904. Soon thereafter, she went to Tlemcen in Algeria where Max Theon and his wife Madame Theon lived. Theon was European, either Polish or Russian, but more probably Russian, of Jewish descent. When she saw him, she recognised him as a being of great power.


¹Mother's Agenda, Vol. 2, p. 404.

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The Mother

And he bore a certain likeness to Sri Aurobindo: Theon was about the same size (not a tall man, of medium height) and thin, slim, with quite a similar profile. But when I met Theon I saw (or rather I felt) that he was not the man I saw in my vision because... he didn't have that vibration. Yet it was he who first taught me things, and I went and worked at Tlemcen for two years in a row.¹

Mother will meet Sri Aurobindo in 1914. Till then, she will not know what Sri Aurobindo was, nor even his name. The vision that she had of Sri Aurobindo remained a kind of a mystery for several years, although it gave her a premonition of what was to happen in the future. As for Theon, with whom she worked for two years in Tlemcen, he was well-versed in the Rig Veda, and spoke of a tradition which antedated and lay at the origin of both the Kabbala and the Vedas. This tradition, he said, held the view that the summit of evolution would be the divinisation of everything objectified. Theon had written all kinds of things—not philosophy but stories, fantastic stories to explain this view. Theon was the first to give to the Mother the idea 'that the earth is symbolic, representative—symbolic of concentrated universal action allowing divine forces to incarnate and work concretely.'²

Theon had received his initiation in India. After working with Blavatsky and having founded an occult society in Egypt, he had gone to Algeria, where he first called himself 'Aia Aziz' (a word of Arabic origin meaning 'the beloved'). Then, he began to set his 'cosmic group' and Cosmic Review. At that time, he called himself Max Theon, meaning supreme God!

He had an English wife. She was an extraordinary occultist, having incredible faculties. Mother has narrated several stories about her (Madame Theon). A few of them can be noted here. The location of all these stories was Tlemcen.

 Someone had wanted to plant pine trees—Scotch firs, I think— and by mistake Norway spruce were sent instead. And it began to snow! It had never snowed there before, as you can imagine—it was only a few kilometres from the Sahara and boiling hot: 113° in the shade and 130° in the sun in summer. Well, one night Madame Theon, asleep in her bed, was awakened by a little gnome-like


¹Ibid., p. 405.
² Ibid., p. 297.

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The Mother

being—a Norvegian gnome with a pointed cap and pointed slippers turned up at the toes! From head to foot he was covered with snow, and it began melting onto the floor of her room, so she glared at him and said:

'What are you doing here? You're dripping wet! You're making a mess of my floor!'

'I'm here to tell you that we were called to this mountain and so we have come.'

'Who are you?'

'The Lord of the Snow.'

'Very well', replied Madame Theon, "I shall see about that when I get up. Now go away, you're spoiling my room!'

So the little gnome left.

But when she awoke, there was a puddle of' water on the floor, so it couldn't have been a dream. And when she looked out the window, all the hills were snow-covered!

It was the first time. They had lived there for years but had never seen snow. And every winter after that, the hillsides would be covered with snow.¹

 I saw it with Madame Theon: she would will a thing to come to her instead of going to the thing herself; instead of going to get her sandals when she wanted them, she made the sandals come to her. She did this through a capacity to radiate her matter—she exercised a will over her matter—her central will acted upon matter anywhere, since she WAS THERE. With her, then, I saw this power in a methodical, organized way, not as something accidental or spasmodic (as it is with mediums), but as an organisation of Matter.²

 The deeper significance of figures... came to me in Tlemcen, when I was in the Overmind.... a world that corresponded to the highest and most luminous regions of Sri Aurobindo's Overmind. It was above, just above the gods' region.... That was where figures took on a living meaning for me—not a mental speculation: a living meaning. That was where Madame Theon recognized me, because of the formation of twelve pearls she saw above my head; and she told me, 'You are that because you have this. Only that can have this!' (Mother laughs) It hadn't even remotely occurred to me, thank God!³


¹ Ibid., pp. 66-7.
² Ibid., p. 414.
³ Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 4, p. 138.

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The Mother

 She would go out of her body and become conscious in the vital world (there were many intermediary states, too, if one cared to explore them). After the vital came the mental: you consciously went out of the vital body, you left it behind (you could see it) and you entered the mental world. Then you left the mental body and entered into.... They used different words, another classification (I don't remember it), but even so, the experience was identical. And like that, she successively left twelve different bodies, one after another. She was extremely 'developed', you see—individualized, organized. She could leave one body and enter the consciousness of the next plane, fully experience the surroundings and all that was there, describe it... and so on, twelve times.

I learned to do the same thing, and with great dexterity; I could halt' on any plane, do what I had to do there, move around freely, see, observe, and then speak about what I had seen. And my last stage, which Theon called 'pathetisme, a very barbaric but very expressive word, bordered on the Formless—he sometimes used the Jewish terminology, calling the Supreme The Formless'. (From this last stage one passed to the Formless—there was no further body to leave behind, one was beyond all possible forms, even all thought-forms.) In this domain [the last stage before the Formless] one experienced total unity—unity in something that was the essence of Love; Love was a manifestation more... 'dense', he would always say (there were all sorts of different 'densities'); and Love was a denser expression of That, the sense of perfect Unity—perfect unity, identity—with no longer any forms corresponding to those of the lower worlds. It was a Light!... an almost immaculate white light, yet with something of a golden-rose in it (words are crude). This Light and this Experience were truly wonderful, inexpressible in words.

Well, one time I was there (Theon used to warn against going beyond this domain, because he said you wouldn't come back), but there I was, wanting to pass over to the other side, when—in a quite unexpected and astounding way—I found myself in the presence of the 'principle', a principle of the human form. It didn't resemble man as we are used to seeing him, but it was an upright form, standing just on the border between the world of forms and the Formless, like a kind of standard.¹ At that time nobody had ever spoken to me about it and Madame Theon had never seen


¹. By 'standard', Mother means a son of model or archetype.

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The Mother

it—no one had never seen or said anything. But I felt I was on the verge of discovering a secret.

Afterwards, when I met Sri Aurobindo and talked to him about it, he told me, 'It is surely the prototype of the supramental form.' I saw it several times again, later on, and this proved to be true.

But naturally, you understand, once the border has been crossed, there is no more 'ascent' and 'descent'; you have the feeling of rising up only at the very start, while leaving the terrestrial consciousness and emerging into the higher mind. But once you have gone beyond that, there's no notion of rising; there's a sense, instead, of a sort of inner transformation.

And from there I would redescend, re-entering my bodies one after another—there is a real feeling of re-entry; it actually produces friction.

When one is on that highest height, the body is in a cataleptic state.

I think I made this experiment in 1904, so when I arrived here it was all a work accomplished and a well-known domain; and when the question of finding the Supermind came up, I had only to resume an experience I was used to—I had learned to repeat it at will, through successive exteriorizations. It was a voluntary process.

Mother's life in Tlemcen was very interesting and Theon and Madame Theon taught her many things.

Theon also taught me how to turn aside lightning.... Oh (laughing), he had a formidable power! Theon had a formidable power.... One stormy day (there were terrible thunderstorms there), he climbed to the high terrace above the sitting room. 'It's strange time to be going up there', I said to him. He laughed. 'Come along, don't be afraid!' So I joined him. He began some invocations and then I clearly saw a bolt of lightning that had been heading straight towards us suddenly swerve IN THE MIDST OF ITS COURSE. You will say it's impossible, but I saw it turn aside and strike a tree farther away. I asked Theon, 'Did you do that?' He nodded.

Oh, that man was terrible—he had a terrible power. But quite a good external appearance!²


¹ Mother's Agenda, Vol: 2, pp. 378-9.
² Ibid, Vol. 2, pp. 64-5.

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The Mother

Theon and Madame Theon spoke of 'new heavens and a new earth' a phrase picked up by them from the Gospels. It contains also the ideal of which the Vedas speak. The question had been that of the realisation of this ideal, and this was being studied by various experiments in consciousness. A vision that Mother had in this context, and which was transcribed by her for publication in Theon's Cosmic Review in 1906, gives us the profundity of her experience. Speaking of this vision, she said:

I have had the experience of being 'missioned', so to speak, in a form of Love and Consciousness combined—divine Love in its supreme purity, divine Consciousness in its supreme purity—and emanated DIRECTLY, without passing through all the intermediate states, directly into the nethermost depths of the Inconscient. And there I had the impression of being, or rather of finding a symbolic Being in deep sleep... so veiled that he was almost invisible. Then, at my contact, the veil seemed to be rent and, without his awakening, there was a sort of radiation spreading out.... I can still see my vision.¹

In his book The Tradition, Theon told his story of Creation, which attempted to explain the process of involution and evolution of consciousness, the origin of the Inconscience and the process of the descent of the divine Being into the Inconscience. As Mother has explained, Theon told the whole story in the Biblical manner, with psychological knowledge hidden in symbols and forms.

The way Theon told it, there was first the universal Mother (he didn't call her the universal Mother, but Sri Aurobindo used that name), the universal Mother in charge of creation. For creating she made four emanations.... In India they speak only of three: Sat-Chit-Ananda (Sat is Existence, expressed by Life; Chit is consciousness, expressed by Power; Ananda is Bliss, synonymous with Love). But according to Theon, there were four.... Well, these emanations (Theon narrated it in such a way that someone not a philosopher, someone with a childlike mind, could understand), these emanations, conscious of their own power, separated themselves from their Origin; that is, instead of being entirely surrendered to the supreme Will and expressing only.... Instead of carrying

¹Ibid., p. 278. For the text of the transcription of the vision, vide. Ibid., pp. 283-5.

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The Mother

out only the supreme Will, they seem to have acquired a sense of personal power. (They were personalities of sorts, universal personalities, each representing a mode of being.) Instead of remaining connected, they cut the link—each acted on his own, to put it simply. Then, naturally, Light became darkness, Life became death, Bliss became suffering and Truth became falsehood. And these are the four great Asuras: the Asura of Inconscience, the Asura of Falsehood, the Asura of Suffering and the Asura of Death.

Once this had occurred, the divine Consciousness turned towards the Supreme and said (Mother laughs): 'Well, here's what has happened. What's to be done?' Then from the Divine came an emanation of Love (in the first emanation it wasn't Love, it was Ananda, Bliss, the Delight of being which became Suffering), and from the Supreme came Love; and Love descended into this domain of Inconscience, the result of the creation of the first emanation, Consciousness—Consciousness and Light had become Inconscience and Darkness. Love descended straight from the Supreme into this Inconscience; the Supreme, that is, created a new emanation, which didn't pass through the intermediate world (because, according to the story, the universal Mother first created all the gods who, when they descended, remained in contact with the Supreme and created all the intermediate worlds to counterbalance this fall—it's the old story of the 'Fall', this fall into the Inconscient. But that wasn't enough). Simultaneously with the creation of the gods, then, came this direct Descent of Love into Matter, without passing through all the intermediate worlds. That's the story of the first Descent....¹


At Tlemcen, Mother was rushing like a cyclone through multitudes of experiences. Among these experiences, she had also the experience of death. What is life? What is death? Are they opposed to each other? Or is death a process of life? Is there something like overlife in which life and death as we understand them are surpassed? These and allied questions are centrally related to the evolutionary crisis through which mankind is passing today and they inevitably formed the kernel of the work for which Mother was preparing herself.

Once during her work in trance, Mother discovered the location of the 'mantra of life'—the mantra that has the power to create life (and to withdraw it as well). During her trances, she was able to narrate


¹ Ibid. pp. 279-80.

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The Mother

her experiences; so on this occasion, Theon told Mother to repeat this mantra to him. Mother refused as it was inwardly indicated to her that it was meant only for her and that it should not be communicated to Theon. Theon became violently angry and the link that connected Mother to her body was cut. When he realised the catastrophe his anger had caused, Theon grew afraid (for he knew who Mother was) and he then made use of all his power, and with Mother's active help from above her re-entry into her body was effected.

Mother has recounted the experience as follows:

... my body was in a cataleptic state and I was in conscious trance.... It was a peculiar kind of catalepsy in the sense that my body could speak, though very slowly—Theon had taught me how to do it. But this is because the 'life of the form' always remains (this is what takes seven days to leave die body) and it can even be trained to make the body move—the being is no longer there, but the life of the form can make the body move (in any case, utter words). However, this state is not without danger, the proof being that while I was working in trance, for some reason or other (which I no longer remember, but obviously due to some negligence on the part of Theon who was there to watch over me), the cord—I don't know what to call it—went snap! The link was cut, malevolently, and when it was time and I wanted to return, I could no longer re-enter my body. But I was still able to warn him: The cord is cut'. Then he used his power and knowledge to help me come back—but it was no joke! It was very difficult. And this is when I had the experience of the two different states, because the part that had gone out was now without the body's support—the link was cut. Then I knew. Of course, I was in a special state; I was doing a fully conscious work with all the vital power, and I was in control not only of my surroundings but.... You see, what happens is a kind of reversal of consciousness: you begin to belong to another world; you feel this quite distinctly. Theon instantly told me to concentrate (I was finding it all interesting—(Mother laughs)—I was making experiments and getting ready to go wandering off, but he was terribly scared that I would die on him!). He begged me to concentrate, so I concentrated on my body.

When I re-entered, it hurt terribly, terribly—an excruciating pain, like plunging into a hell.¹


¹ibid., pp. 305-6.

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The Mother

A few months later, Mother spoke again of the above experiment and said :

Anyway, it was because of Theon that I first found the 'Mantra of Life', the mantra that gives life, and he wanted me to give it to him, he wanted to possess it—it was something formidable! It was the mantra that gives life (it can make anyone at all come back into life, but that's only a small part of its power). And it was shut away in a particular place, sealed up, with my name in Sanskrit on it. I didn't know Sanskrit at that time, but he did, and when he led me to that place, I told what I saw: 'There's a sort of design, it must be Sanskrit.' (I could recognise the characters as Sanskrit). He told me to reproduce what I was seeing, and I did so. It was my name, Mirra, written in Sanskrit—the mantra was for me and I alone could open it. 'Open it and tell me what's there', he said. (All this was going on while I was in a cataleptic trance). Then immediately something in me KNEW, and I answered, 'No', and did not read it.

I found it again when I was with Sri Aurobindo and I gave it to Sri Aurobindo.

But that's yet another story....¹

Mother's experience of death through the violent anger of Theon was significant. For, as Mother narrated much later in 1961, Theon was an emanation or a vibhuti of the Asura of Death. In fact, as Mother explained:

It was not by choice that I met all the four Asuras—it was a decision of the Supreme. The first one, whom religions call Satan, the Asura of Consciousness, was converted and is still at work. The second [the Asura of Suffering] annulled himself in the Supreme. The third was the Lord of Death (that was Theon). And the fourth, the Master of the world, was the Lord of Falsehood; Richard was an emanation, a vibhuti, as they say in India, of this Asura.

Theon was the vibhuti of the Lord of Death.

It's a wonderful story, a real novel, which will perhaps be told one day... when there are no more Asuras. Then it can be told.²


¹ Ibid., pp. 367-8.
² Ibid., p. 367

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The Mother

As a part of the Mother's work of transformation, it was necessary for her to come into close connection with each one of the Adversaries and to try convert them.

Mother's meeting with Theon was a part of her struggle with one of the most formidable problems that are afflicting the world. Even after her return from Algeria, she continued attending to Theon's Revue Cosmique. Five years, in fact. She even translated into French the experiences of Madame Theon, while in trance, had dictated to her English secretary. Finally, Theon was to disappear one day as mysteriously as he had appeared, without leaving a trace. Madame Theon was dashed upon the rocks on the Isle of Wight while walking along the cliffs in trance. Perhaps, she had realised that Theon was not destined to bring down the 'new world' that he had spoken of, and she had no more reason to live.

In her death, Theon lost his base, and there is no record to show what happened to him thereafter. Later, speaking of Theon, Sri Aurobindo had said: 'He knew that he was not meant to succeed, but had only come to prepare the way to a certain extent.¹


In her childhood and adolescence, Mother had developed consciousness through inner experiences. She had found how to communicate with plants and animals; she had found the great coloured waves, the creative vibrations, the sound from above; she had played the piano a lot, and she did painting. She knew the planes of consciousness, went out of her body, went wandering everywhere. She even wandered quite easily into higher mathematics. Then, with Theon she found the knowledge of a system that could explain her inner experiences and learnt a great deal of occultism. She came into contact with great artists and thinkers like Rouault, Rodin, Matisse, Anatole France. She had read a number of books,—in fact, libraries. But she had not yet done the 'mental' gymnastics of metaphysical philosophy, comparative studies, and systems of law and sociology. And if with Theon, Mother had touched death, with Paul Richard she would touch the world's Falsehood. It was in about 1908 that Mother met Paul Richard at Montmorency in the house of the sisters of the artist Henri Morisset (whom she had married in 1897). It was to these sisters that she had entrusted her son, Andre, who was born in 1898.


¹'Some Talks of Sri Aurobindo' in Mother India, May, 1974.

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The Mother

In 1908, there was divorce from Henri Morisset.

Paul Richard was a theologian and a philosopher. He was also a lawyer and a brilliant orator. In Mother's words:

He was a pastor at Lille, in France, for perhaps ten years; he was quite a practising Christian, but he dropped it all as soon as he began to study occultism. He had first specialised in theological philosophy in order to pass the pastoral examinations, studying all the modern philosophy of Europe (he had a rather remarkable metaphysical brain). Then I met him in connection with Theon and the Cosmic Review, and I led him into occult knowledge. Afterwards, there were all sorts of uninteresting stories.... He became a lawyer during the early period of our relationship and I learned Law along with him—I could even have passed the exam! Then the divorce stories began: he divorced his wife; they had three children and he wanted to keep them, but to do so he had to be legally married, so he asked me to marry him—and I said yes. I have always been totally indifferent to these things. Anyway, when I met him I knew who he was and I decided to convert him—the whole story revolves around that.

As a matter of fact, the books he wrote (especially the first one, The Living Ether) were based on my knowledge; he put my knowledge into French—and beautiful French, I must say! I would tell him my experiences and he would write them down. Later he wrote The Gods (it was incomplete, one-sided). Then he became a lawyer and entered politics (he was a first-class orator and fired his audiences with enthusiasm) and was sent to Pondicherry to help a certain candidate who couldn't manage his election campaign single-handed. And since Richard was interested in occultism and spirituality, he took this opportunity to seek a 'Master', a yogi. When he arrived, instead of involving himself in politics, the first thing he did was announce, 'I am seeking a yogi.' Some one said to him, 'You're incredibly lucky! The Yogi has just arrived.' It was Sri Aurobindo who was told, 'There's a Frenchman asking to see you....' Sri Aurobindo wasn't particularly pleased but he found the coincidence rather interesting and received him. This was in 1910.

When Richard had finished his work, he returned to France with a poor photograph of Sri Aurobindo and a completely superficial impression of him, yet with the feeling that Sri Aurobindo KNEW (he hadn't at all understood the man that Sri Aurobindo was, he hadn't felt the presence of an Avatar, but he had sensed that

The Mother

The Mother

he had knowledge). Moreover, I think he always held this opinion because he used to say that Sri Aurobindo was a unique intellectual giant... without many spiritual realisations! (The same type of stupidity as Romain Rolland's.) Well, my relationship with Richard was on an occult plane, you see, and it's difficult to touch upon. What happened was far more exciting than any novel imaginable.¹

From 1910 to 1920—these ten years were a period of intensive mental studies for the Mother. This meant a mental development in all its comprehensiveness: the study of all philosophies, all the jugglings of ideas in their smallest details—entering into systems and understanding them. She went as whole-heartedly into philosophy as into painting, music, occultism, or the truths of existence. She came to the conclusion that all ideas are true, that a synthesis had to be made, and that there is something luminous and true BEYOND THE SYNTHESIS.

Mother also made a systematic and detailed study of the comparative history of religions. But her study was not limited to religion; political and social systems were reviewed in detail, philosophies of every colour, exercises and disciplines of every spirituality—in other words, the higher echelons of the mind. Almost every evening, she received at her home Madame David-Neel, who had just returned from her first journey to the Far East. Mother heard of Bahaism, Taoism, studied the discipline of meditation, Buddhist dhyana, Buddhist renunciation. But she was searching for something else. At Tlemcen, she had seen a world of an entirely different consciousness above, a world which Sri Aurobindo was to call the 'supramental'. Her question was whether that world could be made to descend, and if so, how it could be made to enter into Matter.

In 1911, Mother started keeping a 'journal'² to record her experiences, her hopes and her prayers for the future—she seemed only to think of the future.

Mother had several groups during this period (one of which was


¹ Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 2, pp. 368-9.

² A few selections from this 'journal' have been published under the title Prayers and Meditations. Much later, speaking of this journal, Mother said: Prayers and Meditations came to me, you know—it was dictated each time. I would write at the end of my concentration, and it didn't pass through the mind, it just came— and it obviously came from someone interested in beautiful form. I used to keep it under lock and key so nobody could see it. But when I came here Sri Aurobindo asked about it, so I showed him a few pages and then he wanted to see the rest.

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The Mother

named idea). She tried to communicate to these groups her first vision of the future. She said that die general goal to be attained was the advent of universal harmony, the realisation of human unity, and the establishment of an ideal society in a place propitious for the flowering of the new race, putting the earth into contact with one or several sources of universal force that are still sealed from it. This was in 1912.

In her journey, Mother had come to the point where the mental government of intelligence had to be replaced by the supramental government of consciousness. She was becoming intensely conscious of the movement of terrestrial transformation.

Earlier, she had already an experience of what the Veda calls Agni (Fire), in the middle of man's house. Sri Aurobindo will call it the psychic being, the immortal in the mortal, the ever-pure fire that burns in the deep cavern of the heart. As Mother said: 'I was thinking of nothing but that—concentrating, concentrating... like sitting in front of a closed door, and it was painful! Physically painful, from the pressure!' She carried that in her walks, went up and down the Boulevard St. Michel with it, was almost run over by a streetcar on the way to the Jardin du Luxembourg—heard nothing, saw nothing. She was pushing, pushing against the 'bronze door' of the surface being, pushing more and more with a growing energy.


And then suddenly, for no apparent reason—I was neither more concentrated nor anything less—poof! It opened. And with that... It didn't just last for hours, it lasted for months, mon petit! It didn't leave me, that light, that dazzling light, that light and immensity! And the sense of THAT willing, THAT knowing, THAT


Otherwise I would have always kept it locked away. I destroyed whatever was left— there were five thick volumes in which I had written every single day (there was some repetition, of course): the outcome of my concentrations. So I chose which parts would be published (Sri Aurobindo helped in the choice), copied them out, and then I cut the pages up and had the rest burned....

It wasn't written for anyone and wasn't meant to be read. I showed it to Sri Aurobindo because he was speaking of certain things and I said, 'Ah, yes, that's the experience I had in....' Then I showed him my note book for that date (there was something written for each day).

Five thick notebooks, year after year.... Even here I kept on writing for a while.

I wrote a lot in Japan.

Anyway, everything of general interest was kept. But that's why there are gaps in the dates, otherwise it would be continuous—it was monumental, you know! (.Mother's Agenda, Vol. 3, pp. 346-7).

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The Mother

ruling the whole life, THAT guiding everything—since then, this sense has never left me for a minute. And always, whenever I had a decision to make, I would simply stop for a second and receive the indication from there....¹

A total reversal. And this reversal never returned to the old position... a feeling of becoming another person.²

But this was a part of the journey. For her, triumph in the inner worlds was not enough; she was working for triumph even in the most material worlds. Without knowing Sri Aurobindo or his teaching, she had already come to the same aspiration and vision that she was to find soon in Sri Aurobindo.

Let us note here some of her Prayers and Meditations which may provide to us a few glimpses into the depth, width and height of her experience before she met Sri Aurobindo.

November 2, 1912

Although my whole being is in theory consecrated to Thee, 0 Sublime Master, who art the life, the light and the love in all things, I still find it hard to carry out this consecration in detail. It has taken me several weeks to learn that the reason for this written meditation, its justification lies in the very fact of addressing it daily to Thee. In this way I shall put into material shape each day a little of the conversation I have so often with Thee; I shall make my confession to Thee as well as it may be; not because I think I can tell Thee anything—for Thou art Thyself everything, but our artificial and exterior way of seeing and understanding is, if it may be so said, foreign to Thee, opposed to Thy nature. Still by turning towards Thee, by immersing myself in Thy light at the moment when I consider these things, little by little, I shall see them more like what they really are,—until the day when, having made myself one in identity with Thee, I shall no more have anything to say to Thee, for then I shall be Thou. This is the goal that I would reach; towards this victory all my efforts will tend more and more. I aspire for the day when I can no longer say T, for I shall be Thou.


¹. Mother's Agenda, Vol. 3. p. 400.
² About the opening of the psychic being, see The Mother, Questions and Answers, 17.8.55, 6. 6. 56.

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The Mother

How many times a day, still, I act without my action being consecrated to Thee; I at once become aware of it by an indefinable uneasiness which is translated in the sensibility of my body by a pang in my heart. I then make my action objective to myself and it seems to me ridiculous, childish or blameworthy; I deplore it, for a moment I am sad, until I dive into Thee and, there losing myself with a child's confidence, await from Thee the inspiration and strength needed to set right the error in me and around me,—two things that are one; for I have now a constant and precise perception of the universal unity determining an absolute interdependence of all actions.¹

November 19, 1912

I said yesterday to that young Englishman who is seeking for Thee with so sincere a desire, that I had definitively found Thee, that the Union was constant. Such is indeed the state of which I am conscious. All my thoughts go towards Thee, all my acts are consecrated to Thee; Thy Presence is for me an absolute, immutable, invariable fact, and Thy Peace dwells constantly in my heart. Yet I know that this state of union is poor and precarious compared with that which it will become possible for me to realise tomorrow, and I am as yet far, no doubt very far, from that identification in which I shall totally lose the notion of the 'I', of that 'I', which I still use in order to express myself, but which is each time a constraint, like a term unfit to express the thought that is seeking for expression....²

November 25, 1913

The greatest enemy of a silent contemplation turned towards Thee is surely this constant subconscient registering of the multitude of phenomena with which we come into contact. So long as we are mentally active, our conscious thought veils for us this over-activity of our subconscious receptivity; an entire part of our sensibility, and perhaps not the smallest, acts like a cine-camera


¹The Mother, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 1-2.
² Ibid., p. 4.

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The Mother

without our knowledge and indeed to our detriment. It is only when we silence our active thought, which is relatively easy, that we see this multitude of little subconscious notations surging up from every side and often drowning us under their overwhelming flood....

And the remedy? In an over-simple way, certain ascetic disciplines recommend solitude and inaction: sheltering one's subconscient from all possible registration; that seems to me a childish remedy, for it leaves the ascetic at the mercy of the first surprise-attack; and if one day, confident of being perfectly master of himself, he wants to come back among his fellowmen in order to help them, his subconscient, so long deprived of its activity of reception, will surely indulge it more intensively than ever before, as soon as the least opportunity offers.

There is certainly another remedy. What is it? Undoubtedly, one must learn to control one's subconscient just as one controls one's conscious thought. There must be many ways of achieving this. Regular introspection in the Buddhist manner and a methodical analysis of one's dreams—formed almost always from this subconscious registration—are part of the method to be found. But there is surely something more rapidly effective....

O Lord, Eternal Master, Thou shalt be the Teacher, the Inspirer; Thou wilt teach me what should be done, so that after an indispensable application of it to myself, I may make others also benefit from what Thou hast taught me....¹

January 8, 1914

Let us shun the paths that are too easy and ask no effort, the paths which give us the illusion of having reached our goal; let us shun that negligence which opens the door to every downfall, that complacent self-admiration which leads to every abyss. Let us understand that however great may have been our efforts, our struggles, even our victories, compared with the distance yet to be travelled, the one we have already covered is nothing; and that all are equal— infinitesimal grains of dust or identical stars—before Eternity.

But Thou art the conqueror of all obstacles, the Light that illumines all ignorance, the Love that vanquishes all pride. And no


¹ Ibid., pp. 35-6.

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The Mother

error can persist in front of Thee.¹

February 22, 1914


Many a time in the day and night it seems to me that I am, or rather my consciousness is, concentrated entirely in my heart which is no longer an organ, not even a feeling, but the divine Love, impersonal, eternal; and being this Love I feel myself living at the centre of each thing upon the entire earth, and at the same time I seem to stretch out immense, infinite arms and envelop with a boundless tenderness all beings, clasped, gathered, nestled on my breast that is vaster than the universe.... Words are poor and clumsy, O divine Master, and mental transcriptions are always childish.... But my aspiration to Thee is constant, and truly speaking, it is very often Thou and Thou alone who livest in this body, this imperfect means of manifesting Thee.

May all beings be happy in the peace of Thy illumination!²

In a certain context, Mother narrated the following synoptic account of her life from early childhood to the point when she came to Sri Aurobindo.

...When I was five years old (I must have begun earlier, but the memory is a bit vague and imprecise)... but from five onwards, in my consciousness (not a mental memory but—how can I put it?— it's noted, a notation in my consciousness)... well, I began with consciousness. Of course I had no idea what it was. But my first experience was the consciousness here (gesture above the head), which I felt like a Light and a Force; and I felt it there (same gesture) at the age of five.

It was a very pleasant sensation. I would sit in a little armchair made especially for me, all alone in my room, and I... (I didn't know what it was, you see, not a thing, nothing—mentally zero) and I had a VERY PLEASANT feeling of something very strong, very luminous, and it was here (above the head). Consciousness. And I felt, 'That's what I have to live, what I have to be.' Not with all


¹ Ibid., p. 50.
² Ibid., p. 82.

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The Mother

those words, naturally, but... (Mother makes a gesture of aspiration upward). Then I would pull it down, for it was... it was truly my raison d'etre.

That is my first memory—at five years old. Its impact was more on the ethical side than the intellectual; and yet it took an intellectual form too, since.... You see, apparently I was a child like any other, except that I was hard to handle. Hard in the sense that I had no interest in food, no interest in ordinary games, no liking for going to my friends' houses for snacks, because eating cakes wasn't the least bit interesting! And it was impossible to punish me because I really couldn't have cared less: being deprived of dessert was rather a relief for me! And then I flatly refused to learn reading, I refused to learn. And even bathing me was very hard, because I was put in the care of an English governess, and that meant cold baths—my brother took it in stride, but I just howled! Later it was found to be bad for me (the doctor said so), but that was much later. So you get the picture.

But whenever there was unpleasantness with my relatives, with playmates or friends, I would feel all the nastiness or bad will—all sorts of pretty ugly things that came (I was rather sensitive, for I instinctively nurtured an ideal of beauty and harmony, which all the circumstances of life kept denying)... so whenever I felt sad, I was most careful not to say anything to my mother or father, because my father didn't give a hoot and my mother would scold me—that was always the first thing she did. And so I would go to my room and sit down in my little armchair, and there I could concentrate and try to understand... in my own way. And I remember that after quite a few probably fruitless attempts I wound up telling myself (I always used to talk to myself; I don't know why or how, but I would talk to myself just as I talked to others): 'Look here, you feel sad because so-an-so said something really disgusting to you—but why does that make you cry? Why are you so sad? He's the one who was bad, so he should be crying. You didn't do anything bad to him.... Did you tell him nasty things? Did you fight with her, or with him? No, you didn't do anything, did you; well then, you needn't feel sad. You should only be sad if you've done something bad, but....' So that settled it: I would never cry. With just a slight inward movement, or 'something' that said, 'You've done no wrong,' there was no sadness.

But there was another side to this 'someone': it was watching me more and more, and as soon as I said one word or made one

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The Mother

gesture too many, had one little bad thought, teased my brother or whatever, the smallest thing, it would say (Mother takes on a severe tone), 'Look out, be careful!' At first I used to moan about it, but by and by it taught me: 'Don't lament—put right, mend.' And when things could be mended—as they almost always could—I would do so. All that on a five to seven-year-old child's scale of intelligence.

So it was consciousness.

Next came the period of learning and developing, but on an ordinary mental level—school years.¹ Curiosity made me want to learn to read. Did I tell you how it happened? When I was around seven, just under seven, my brother, who was eighteen months older, used to bring big pictures home from school with him (you know, pictures for children with captions at the bottom; they're still used nowadays) and he gave me one of them. 'What's written there?' I asked. 'Read it!' he said. 'Don't know how,' I replied. 'Then learn!' 'AU right,' I told him, 'show me the letters.' He brought me an A-B-C book. I knew it within two days and on the third day I started reading. That's how I learned. 'Oh-oh,' they used to say, 'this child is backward! Seven years old and she still can't read—disgraceful!' The whole family fretted about it. And then lo and behold, in about a week I knew what should have taken me years to learn—it made them think twice!

Then, school years. I was a very bright student, always for the same reason: I wanted to understand. I wasn't interested in learning things by heart like the others did—I wanted to understand them. And what a memory I had, a fantastic memory for sounds and images! I had only to read a poem aloud at night, and the next morning I knew it. And after I had studied or read a book and someone mentioned a passage to me, I would say, 'ah, yes— that's on page so and so.' I would find the page. Nothing had faded, it was all still fresh. But this is the ordinary period of development.

Then at a very young age (about eight or ten), along with my studies I began to paint. At twelve I was already doing portraits. All aspects of art and beauty, but particularly music and painting,


¹ Mother clarified: 'Actually, a growth of consciousness was going on throughout those years of study; I didn't learn things by rote, I needed to understand them; and as soon as I understood something, I knew it. In other words, because the learning period was "not yet intellectual, it can be considered part of the period of consciousness development.'

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The Mother

fascinated me. I went through a very intense vital development during that period, with, just like in my early years, the presence of a kind of inner Guide; and all centred on studies: the study of sensations, observations, the study of technique, comparative studies, even a whole spectrum of observations dealing with taste, smell and hearing—a kind of classification of experiences. And this extended to all facets of life, all the experiences life can bring, all of them—miseries, joys, difficulties, sufferings, everything—oh, a whole field of studies! and always this presence within, judging, deciding, classifying, organizing and systematizing everything.

Then conscious yoga made a sudden entry into the picture when I met Theon; I must have been about twenty-one. Life's orientation changed, a whole series of experiences took place, with the development of the vital giving interesting occult result.

Then, a period of intensive mental development, mental development of the most complete type: a study of all the philosophies, all the conceptual juggling, in minute detail—delving into systems, getting a grasp on them. Ten years of intensive mental studies leading me to... Sri Aurobindo.

So I had all this preparation. And I am giving you these details simply to tell you it all began with consciousness (I knew very well what consciousness was, even before I had any word or idea to explain it), consciousness and its force—its force of action, its force of execution. Next, a detailed study and thorough development of the vital. After that, mental development taken to its uppermost limit, where you can juggle with all ideas; a developmental stage where it's already understood that all ideas are true and that there's a synthesis to be made, and that beyond the synthesis lies something luminous and true. And behind it all, a continual consciousness. Such was my state when I came here: I'd had a world of experiences and had already attained conscious union with the Divine above and within—all of it consciously realized, carefully noted and so forth—when I came to Sri Aurobindo.¹

¹ Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 3, pp. 278-81.

The Mother

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